Creating and Implementing Your Marketing Plan (Part 1)

Marketing is an area where many business owners flounder. That’s usually due to the fact that they lack a plan for getting the word out about the business, but it’s hard to know where to start when creating a marketing plan. You may have ideas for how you might promote your business, but figuring out if your strategy and tactics are worthwhile and then organizing your ideas into a workable plan of action can be overwhelming. In this two-part post, I’ll discuss a few tools and tips to help you create, implement and maintain a marketing plan for your business.

Before you can begin any kind of marketing or promotion, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the purpose, mission, and values you want for your business, but for the sake of this post, we’ll assume you’ve gotten that far. You know your unique selling proposition, your target market, and what your business represents. Now you just need to find a way to create a more focused and consistent plan for increasing awareness and, ultimately, finding more customers and clients.

Finding Your Marketing Strategy and Tactics

One of the hardest things about marketing is selecting the overall strategy and individual tactics for promotion. There are hundreds of ideas; narrowing them down can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to marketing.

One of the best ways to get your initial direction for marketing online is by looking to other successful companies or entrepreneurs and learning from their experience. For example, if you want to build a blog, find a few bloggers that you admire and follow, and then dig back to the very beginning of their blogging days. This will take a bit of time, since most successful blogs take a while to establish. If they’ve published two or more posts per week, it might take a while to get back to their very first post, but keep digging!

Once you reach the beginning, get ready to take notes. You’re going to begin going through all their posts looking for clues as to what has made them such a success, and here are a few things to look for as you go.

  • How often do they publish to their blog? Weekly? Twice-weekly? Several times daily?
  • Are their posts long or short?
  • At what point did they starting getting consistent comments, and when did their comments start to steadily increase? Was there something that they changed or were doing during those times (and the months before) to generate those comments?
  • How is their site laid out, and do you notice anything about their site that might be particularly helpful for capturing visitor attention and converting them to subscribers or customers?
  • How has their writing evolved over time?
  • What kinds of posts do they regularly publish? Interviews? Advice? How-to articles?
  • Many bloggers tend to create “How I Created a Successful Blog” posts, once they reach a certain level of success. Keep an eye out, and if you find this sort of post, pay close attention to the blogger’s advice, and then think of ways you might be able to apply that advice to your own marketing efforts.

Be aware that there is no single answer to some of the questions listed above. If you can find a successful blogger who advocates short daily posts, I guarantee that you can find another who prefers long articles posted weekly. The key is to find an approach that you think will work best for your situation, personality and style.

Also, a note of caution, you’re not looking to copy any other blogger (in fact, that would be a good way to fail). You want to be original and unique with your business, so the point of this exercise is not to copy anyone else, but rather to emulate the marketing strategies that they’ve used to build their blogs. Think of these bloggers as mentors and role models, not people to clone.

Brainstorming Your Options

As mentioned, the options for marketing and promoting a business are virtually endless, but here are a few that I like best:

  • Blogging, guest blogging and article marketing
  • Podcasting and video casting
  • Interviews and appearances for relevant websites and media opportunities
  • Online networking

Once you have some ideas for potential marketing tactics, you’re ready to begin weeding through them to find those that you think are most likely to work for you. In next week’s post, we’ll discuss tools to help you with tracking and organizing your options and then begin prioritizing them into a plan of attack.

What tactics do you use to market your business now, and what ideas are you thinking of adding to the mix soon?

Photo by Flickr user dps, licensed under CC 2.0

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):